How to open vector AI or EPS files in Photoshop


We received a lot of e-mails about how you can open AI and EPS files with Photoshop and how to use them without losing the quality of the vector in the process.
Whether you are using a PC or a Mac, the process is similar, the only difference is you will use “Cmd” instead of “CTRL”. Thus said, let’s get straight to the point!

Open Photoshop, then go to File > Open… and select your vector file. We will need a test subject for this, so we’ll use one of our vector packs: Mythical Creatures Vector Pack 1.

Unlike a regular raster file, the .ai and the .eps files will prompt you to input a file size before it will be opened. This step is very important, because Photoshop will open the file as raster, not as vector or as a Smart Object (we’ll discuss this type of file a bit later).
I recommend you input a fairly large size, then you can scale it down without losing quality.

Now we have the full vector file converted to raster (don’t worry, you original vector file is intact!) and able to use it as raster.
But now we have an entire pack and we want just a shape.

Some vectors may have a background, because some vectors use transparency that requires a background (Multiply for example, inherits a darker tone of the flat color below it). What do we do then? Don’t panic, I’m here to explain that too.
In the original file, grab the Magic Wand Tool (W), select the background color and hit Delete. Hit CTRL+D to deselect.

Here’s what to do: Grab the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) , select your shape and copy it (CTRL+C). Now go to your document (CTRL+Tab) and paste it in.

Hit CTRL+T (Free Transform Mode), hold the SHIFT key and scale it to fit your design. Hit Enter to exit this mode.

The downside for this workaround with vectors is the inability to rescale the elements to a larger size after you’ve shrunk it. But there is a way to do this if you copy a vector from Illustrator and paste it as Smart Object.

The Smart Object thingy is actually a vector file with scalable properties. If you double-click it, it will automatically open it in Illustrator and will allow you to fully edit it, just like a normal vector. Let’s scale them down, then scale them up to and see what happens!

As you can see, the smart object preserves its quality, unlike the raster version, which dramatically gets ruined. I’ve exaggerated a bit with the scaling so the difference would be more obvious.

There is another way you can convert vectors into a scalable Photoshop – Compound Shapes. This technique converts your vector shapes into Photoshop shapes (yes, the ones you usually create using the Path Tool).
Here’s how you convert them! (by the way, for this one, you’ll need Illustrator).

Open your vector file in Illustrator (File > Open…). Select the vector you want, copy it and create a new document (File > New…). Paste in the vector.

Grab the Magic Wand Tool (Y), hit Enter and set the “Tolerance” value to “0”.

Select the outline and go to the Pathfinder window (Window > Pathfinder) and access the floating menu. Select “Make Compound Shape”. Repeat this for every color in the vector.

To verify if you’ve done this for all shapes, expand the layer, then the group and check if there are any “Path” sub-layers. If there are, click the small circles near the layer and convert them to compound shapes, like before. In the end, you should have only “Compound Shape” layers.

Now we have compound shapes ready to be exported to Photoshop!
Go to File > Export, select .PSD in the file type, name it, set location to Desktop and hit OK.

Double-click the newly created .PSD file to open it in Photoshop. But wait, now instead of having a single layer with a vector, there are now more layers, each with its own editable color, and organized nicely into a group. More so, this file is also scalable, just like a vector and you can change each color with just a few clicks: simply double-click the square layer thumbnail and select the color.

Pretty cool, huh?

That’s about it on how to use vectors in Photoshop. If you have any questions or you didn’t fully understand this article, let me know in a comment or via e-mail. I’d be happy to help you, once I’ve cleaned the coffee spilled on my keyboard (again!).

Do you want to learn more about how to work with Photoshop?

See our Illustrator and Photoshop tutorials. They are all FREE. Also, you can check all Free Vectors Category.


  1. says

    Hi there, thankyou so much for this Tut, I only use photoshop so learning to open Ai files in photoshop is great, am learning myself photoshop and this something I had tried to do in past to no success. This Tut is fantastic.

    Wendy xx

    • says

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  2. Deepak says

    Hi Doink – I am very THANKFUL to u as u shared very useful info with us , – u solved my problem of working with VECTOR files PS in very easy way – really thanx – I tried what u said above and got the desired results with vector files, REALLY THANX

  3. says

    Hi there, I tried what you said and got… Could not complete your request because Photoshop was unable to parse the PostScript…

    I’ve got an eps file downloaded from shutterstock and so I’m trying to bring in not only as a vector file but to access the layer where there is type so I can change it, but it when I do bring into photoshop or illustrator there are no layers…can you help?

    • says

      For Type layers, the process is different. Go to File > Export and make sure the “Write Layers” is checked, as well as the checkboxes below it (preserve text editability is a must). This feat is influenced by the document’s color mode, so if you want the .psd file to be in CMYK, make sure you convert the vector file to CMYK first.

  4. Jose says

    How would you then use this with another picture? Like if I have an .eps file of a logo and I want to put a logo ontop of another image? Sorry if thats a nooby question, but I am a noob lol

    • says

      .eps files are compatible with photoshop. you can use File > Place… and select the .eps file. It will be pasted in as a smart object into your .psd file. If you want to transform the logo into .psd, simply repeat the process and drag-drop the layers from one file to another. Use Window > Arrange > Tile Horizontally to do this easier.

  5. eto says

    hello doink. would you please help me out. i have tried your second method. trying to select each part in illustrator by using magic wand, but then when i made compound shape, the stroke turned out to be bigger and connected each other. do you have any idea how to fix that or maybe i miss the step that could have worked out for this problem. cheers.

  6. says

    This was a great tutorial. I’ve been looking for something that would explain it for a beginner in Photoshop working with Vectors etc. Thanks again!

  7. says

    This is a cool tutorial but there is a sacrifice converting to compound shapes. For this type of graphic is is an OK way to go but if you have gradient mesh in your illustration it gets messy really fast. I always tell people if you want to do it right leave the AI file as is, bring it in as a smart object and use the right tool for the job when you need to edit a vector.